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September 25, 2023 @ 7:00 am - 11:30 pm


The story so far:

Last month, amid strong backlash from the public and neighbouring countries, Japan began the release of contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.

What happened?

The wastewater is a byproduct of the catastrophic 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which disabled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, leading to the release of radioactive materials.

Japan says they are running out of storage space, and allege that the, now treated water is safe for release.

Mixing radioactive materials in the sea poses major health risks, especially since these countries rely heavily on seafood.

How is the water being treated?

The water is being treated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), Japan’s largest electric utility firm. The water has been treated with multiple techniques, notably the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), which removes 62 types of radioactive materials.

However, it doesn’t remove tritium. TEPCO and the Japanese government argue that the concentration of tritium does not exceed international standards, in particular, those of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.

According to TEPCO’s website, the radiation emitted by tritium is “extremely weak, and can be blocked with a single sheet of paper.” The concentration is also six times less than the limit for tritium in drinking water, set by the World Health Organization.

What is Tritiated Water?

Tritiated water is a radioactive form of water in which the usual protium atoms are replaced with tritium. It is a colorless liquid. In its pure form it may be called tritium oxide or super-heavy water. Pure TO is a colorless liquid, and it is corrosive due to self-radiolysis.

How has the public responded?

Some surveys show that 80-85% of South Koreans oppose the water’s release.

The Chinese government, which has been against Japan’s decision since the announcement was made, has already banned seafood from Japan.

Is the water safe?

Although, scientifically, the levels of radiation in the wastewater are not so high as to cause panic, there is evidence showing that exposure to radiation, even at low levels, can harm the health of humans and the environment.

What is the fear with Tritium?

“[Tritium] is easily absorbed by the bodies of living creatures when it is in the form of tritiated water, and rapidly distributed throughout bodies via blood.

Since tritiated water can pass through the placenta, it could lead to developmental effects in babies when ingested by pregnant women.”

Chemically, there is no difference between tritiated water and water with tritiate.

Are Japan and IAEA hands in glove?

The IAEA’s most important objective is to ‘seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy.’ “One should not be surprised that they underplay the risks involved”.

“Japan is trying to use the IAEA decision as a tool to release the water,” which have somewhat brought public, political and social stakeholders to a consensus in Japan.

How is this affecting regional politics?

Between Japan and South Korea

A key factor for Japan in maintaining relations with South Korea in particular, has been transparency over the treatment and release process.

South Korea’s government, following repeated consolation by the IAEA, has told people that the water and the seafood is safe.

They have also assured the public that they will continuously monitor the seawater and seafood, and that the 2011 ban on seafood from the water near Fukushima, would remain intact.

Japan colonized the Korean peninsula in the early 20th century, and the tensions of that time continue to strain relations even now.

Although China and Russia were not on board at the time of the release, he said most other countries were comforted by such transparent communication.


What is the significance of China’s hardline response?

China’s response must be seen through a wider geopolitical lens. Japan-Sino relations have fluctuated repeatedly in the recent past, especially as China grows its military presence in the South China Sea.

China is also watching South Korea and Japan’s strengthening relationship. “China, of course, is not comfortable about the growing bonhomie between South Korea and Japan.

The Chinese government aims to make it an issue just to create further strategic fissures between South Korea and Japan,”

What next?

Japan will release the treated wastewater over the next 30 years and will continue to monitor the seawater’s radiation.

The government is also setting aside 80 billion yen to compensate fishers who will lose business because of public fears.

The government is looking to revive the country’s nuclear power plant industry, with the hopes to stabilize the energy sector.

Before the 2011 earthquake, 30% of Japan’s electricity needs were met via nuclear reactors.

In March, less than 10% of Japan’s power came from these facilities.

Prelims Questions

  1. IAEA related topics
  2. Radioactive material and its treatment
  3. Tritium
  4. Nuclear Power Generation Technique

Mains Questions

  1. Discuss how a disaster in one country can turn into a strategic tool underscoring geo-politics. Explain it with an example? (150 Words) 10 Marks


                                          THE FIVE EYES

What is Five Eyes?

The ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing alliance is made up of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S.

History of the Five Eyes

The origins of the FVEY can be traced to informal secret meetings during World War II between British and American codebreakers, which started before the US formally entered the war, followed by the Allies’ 1941 Atlantic Charter that established their vision of the post-war world.

The Five Eyes during the Cold War: ECHELON Surveillance System

As the Cold War deepened, the intelligence sharing arrangement became formalized under the ECHELON surveillance system in the 1960s.

This was initially developed by the FVEY to monitor the communications of the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, although it is now used to monitor communications worldwide.

Why in the News?

Information shared by members of ‘Five Eyes’, the intelligence-sharing alliance, was part of what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used to make public allegations on the Indian government’s possible involvement in the assassination of a Sikh Canadian, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada said.

On Thursday, a Canadian official said that the allegation of India’s involvement in the killing is based on the surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada, including intelligence provided by a major ally — without saying which one.

Five Eyes in the Post-Cold War Era

In the late 1990s, the existence of ECHELON was disclosed to the public, triggering a major debate in the European Parliament and, to a lesser extent, the United States Congress.

The FVEY further expanded their surveillance capabilities during the course of the “war on terror”, with much emphasis placed on monitoring the World Wide Web.

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden described the Five Eyes as a “supra-national intelligence organisation that does not answer to the known laws of its own countries”.

Edward Snowden and his revelations

In 2013, documents leaked by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the existence of numerous surveillance programs jointly operated by the Five Eyes. The following list includes several notable examples reported in the media:

  • PRISM– Operated by the NSA together with GCHQ and the ASD
  • XKeyscore– Operated by the NSA with contributions from the ASD and the GCSB
  • Tempora– Operated by GCHQ with contributions from the NSA
  • MUSCULAR– Operated by GCHQ and the NSA
  • STATEROOM– Operated by the ASD, CIA, CSE, GCHQ, and NSA


In recent years, documents of the FVEY have shown that they are intentionally spying on one another’s citizens and sharing the collected information with each other, although the FVEYs countries claim that all intelligence sharing was done legally, according to the domestic law of the respective nations.

They don’t spy on each other’s governments

One of the core principles is that members do not spy on other governments in the alliance. US Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis C. Blair said in 2013: “We do not spy on each other. We just ask.”

Here are Some of the most potent Intelligence Agencies in the World

Prelims Questions

  1. Five Eyes and its membership
  2. Other projects under the Five Eyes


Mains Questions

  1. Discuss how far the existence of entities like the Five Eyes is justified in modern day world crossing the Sovereignty line of Nations? (150 Words) 10 Marks


September 25, 2023
7:00 am - 11:30 pm
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